As all you photographers know, and many non photographers also, we post process our images. This means that when we go out and take photos we edit them in a photo editing software afterwards. Adobe photoshop and lightroom are the big guns in this field. But are we as photographers cheating? Is photo manipulation cheating? I have often been asked this by people observing my images or those starting out in photography who try to get the same shot and fail, when i tell them the difference is often in the post processing.
Photo editing software is a tool, the same as a carpenter uses a saw, the same as a plumber uses a wrench, the same as a teacher uses a textbook. It is a tool needed for us to complete the job and anyone who tries to tell you that we are 'cheating' when we use software to make our images come to life is talking total nonsense because every single image you have ever seen and went "wow that's stunning" has been processed after being shot.
Now that is not to say that you can go out with the camera and start firing blindly expecting to create loads of wow shots in Photoshop, no it doesn't work like that. You still need those fundamentals of photography such as composition and lighting and framing a subject etc. But when editing software is used in conjunction with these fundamentals that is when you start upping your game. We need to learn how to post process the same as we learned how to use a camera.
I use Adobe Lightroom primarily because it is an excellent system for organising my images as well as being a powerful editing tool. I use photoshop when i need to do some exposure blending, or more complex adjustments that lightroom can't quite do. So if you find your images lacking something but you know your doing everything right on location then it might be your post processing.
The image below is an example of using post processing to create a shot reasonably close to what you can see with your eye. Your camera does not have the same dynamic range as your eye hence it cannot perfectly exposure for both the sky and the foreground. In these scenarios we often have to expose for the sky in one shot and the foreground in the other. I feel i've done a lot of talking and at this stage might have lost many of the readers already so ill just throw in some images so you can see what i mean
DISCLAIMER: I am not nor do I pretend to be an expert at Photoshop, I have a lot to learn yet!
This is an image i took on the copper coast near Waterford. I wasn't even going to get out of the car that morning it was so dull and the cloud was thick but this can often create a different type of shot.
Anyway, as the sun was rising i was not able to expose for both the foreground and sky in one shot. Hence i took two images and blended them together in photoshop.
As you can see both these images are nothing special, yet. But combining them together i was able to bring back the dynamic range and create a photo that i was pleased with. On top of other colour correction adjustments, some contrast, clarity etc done in lightroom the primary editing was done in photoshop by blending the two images using layer masks.
Did i cheat? No, i used the tools i had at my disposal to do the best job possible. I'm also not trying to say my images and post processing techniques are fantastic and everybody should do the same. I'm simply giving an insight into why we use post processing in our images and that there is a lot more work in photography than just looking through the viewfinder and pressing a button.
Any questions, comments, rants, feel free to send me an email, message me on instagram or comment below. And if you completely disagree with what i'm saying and think i'm talking utter nonsense then i would love to chat with you :-) Once again thanks for reading and talk soon.